The Court of Appeal has slashed the costs earlier awarded to lawyer Severino Twinobusigye for winning a case in which he challenged the powers of Parliament to suspend then Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi and two other Ministers over allegations of bribery by oil firms.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru of the Court of Appeal yesterday reduced the costs of Shs 13 billion earlier awarded to lawyer Severino to only Shs 21 million. The hefty award had been approved by Constitutional Court registrar, Erias Kisawuzi back in 2012.
The case against the Attorney General in which Severino was petitioner and emerged victor involved Amama Mbabazi, Minister of Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Hillary Onek and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa.
At the time, Parliament was pushing to have the three Ministers suspended from office and investigated over corruption but Severino filed a petition challenging the powers of Parliament and the Constitutional Court issued an injunction against the move.
On May 24, 2012, the parties (lawyers) in the case appeared before the Registrar of Court, Erias Kisawuzi for the taxation of the bill of costs. After a full hearing, the Rgistrat dlivtd his ruling on December 24 in which he allowed the bill at Shs 12.9 billion.
However, the respondent (Attorney General) in the petition challenged the taxation bill and instead preferred the matter to be referred to a single Justice of the same Court as provide for under Rule 119 of the Rules of the Court of Appeal. The Attorney General said the costs awarded by the Registrar offended the principles of law regarding taxation costs and that they were excessive.
Now, Justice Kenneth Kakuru to whom the matter was referred has concurred with the Attorney General and accordingly slashed the earlier award of Shs 12.9 billion to Shs 21 million.
In his April 30 ruling, Justice Kakuru stated that there was nothing extraordinary about the constitutional petition as it was neither voluminous nor complicated.
“I have failed to understand the basis on which such a high award of instruction fees was made,” Justice Kakuru’s ruling reads in part, adding that “Shs 20 billion is a lot of money and beyond the means of any ordinary Ugandan”.
He argued that public interest litigation requires that costs be kept to a reasonable level so as not to keep poor litigants out of courts.
“I find the award of Shs 20 billion approximately USD 5.7 million on the instruction fees unjustified and ridiculous to say the least. I hereby set it aside, this sum of money should never ever have been awarded as costs in a Constitutional petition,” Justice Kakuru further ruled.
Accordingly, court has substituted the Shs 12.9 billion award with Shs 21 million, of which Shs 20 million goes to the lead counsel (Severino) and Shs 10 million for his Assistant. Court disallowed several of the fees including those for drawing and making copies of affidavits.